Joe Biden's tone on Israel has been hardening in recent days, but when he called the country's response in the Gaza Strip "over the top" this week, the US president crossed into new territory.
The comments made on Thursday were the strongest by the US leader since Israel launched its barrage on Gaza following Hamas’ October 7 attacks — leaving the White House quietly scrambling to temper their effect.
The episode reflects the growing divide between the Democratic president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's coalition government which includes far-right ministers.
Observers agree the shift in tone is not likely to impact the billions of dollars in military aid that the United States is accustomed to sending to Israel — a new and tenuous $14 billion package is, for example, currently under consideration in the divided US Congress.
But US officials are no longer hiding their frustration with the way Israel is conducting the war as it enters its fifth month.
"I'm of the view, as you know, that the conduct of the response in Gaza, in the Gaza Strip, has been over the top," Biden said Thursday evening during an impromptu exchange with reporters at the White House.
"There are a lot of innocent people who are starving, a lot of innocent people who are in trouble, dying, and it's got to stop," he said.